The old idiom “the devil is in the details” struck me as apt after reading through the responses to a recent post asking candidates about the one thing they wish they had done before the CFA exam. The idiom is derived from the earlier, “God is in the detail,” though I don’t have a clue why they would have switched it.
It expresses the idea that work should be done thoroughly, with an eye on the details because that is where the importance lies. I was reminded of the idiom when a great many candidates pointed out that the wished they had spent more time on the Economics material before the most recent exam. It seemed that many had focused on other areas like fixed income or FRA at the expense of smaller topics like economics and quant methods.
Frequent readers will know that I am a big proponent of focusing on the “core” topics where you will get the most points for your study time, so this may be something of a break from that but…
Do not forget the other topics, the details, either. Topics like Economics and Quantitative Methods are still worth a fifth of your total points in the first exam and will be fairly important in the second and third exam as well.
A measured approach
Here it is easy to say, “just make sure you read and master all the curriculum,” but we know that is probably not going to be possible for many candidates. Whether time constraints or just plain procrastination, many do not cover the material enough times to get every topic area. I would still say to focus on those topics where the most points are offered throughout the three exams, but you cannot afford to completely neglect the ‘details’ in other topics.
I usually suggest scheduling your study time according to your scores on practice exams or test bank questions. You want to be scoring above 80% on the core topics (i.e. Ethics, FRA, Equity, Fixed Income) and above 60% on the other topics. If you are not getting at least half of the material in the secondary topics like Economics and Quant Methods, it is going to make it extremely hard to pass even with a stellar score in the other areas. This, of course, makes it necessary to incorporate practice questions and exams into your study plans as early as possible to be able to fine-tune your schedule.
We’ve got over five months until the next exams and many haven’t started studying yet. That’s fine but you need to be thinking about when you will start and a reasonable schedule. Take the time now to go through a few of the general posts here on the blog to pick out important ideas and tips. Linked here is probably our most concise, basic strategy ideas.
Get the points you need to pass, without forgetting the details.
‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA